After breaking the bank for Counsell, will Cubs' spending spree continue?

If you do the math, it looks like everything is adding up for the Cubs.

In 2019 they had the second-highest payroll in baseball at nearly $195 million.

The year before, the Cubs ranked No. 4 overall at $183 million.

After scaling back from 2020-22 and focusing more on building up a barren minor-league system than throwing money at free agents, the Cubs increased their spending last season and ranked No. 12 at $120 million.

Not only are they expected to be back near the top of the payroll pile in 2024, the Cubs already flexed their spending muscles by making Craig Counsell the highest-paid manager in MLB history with a five-year, $40 million contract.

The next step is making a run at free-agent superstar Shohei Ohtani, right?

And while they're at it, the Cubs should scoop up other free agents like starting pitchers Blake Snell and Aaron Nola.

Oh yeah, bring back Cody Bellinger on a $250 million deal and see about signing third baseman Matt Chapman.

There's a growing sense around the game - if the Cubs can afford to spend so much on a manager, they're really going to go big on players.

Not long after Counsell was officially introduced at Wrigley Field Monday, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was asked how deep the Cubs' pockets are going be this off-season.

"I don't think it's a one-year process," Hoyer said. "I'm excited about where we are as an organization. We have a really good core of players in the major leagues, I think we've got a really good farm system. I think where we are from a financial standpoint is exciting. We've all worked really hard to put ourselves in that position after making some really hard decisions.

"This doesn't signal we're going to be irresponsible this off-season if there aren't the right transactions. But certainly, the goal is to continue the trajectory we're on and really push that forward."

The Brewers, Counsell's old team, ranked No. 20 in baseball with a $98 million payroll last season. Milwaukee has spent more than $100 million on players only twice in its franchise history, most recently $117 million in 2022.

Money is always a major motivator, but Counsell said that wasn't the only reason he left Milwaukee's dugout after a nine-year run to manage the Cubs.

"I think more resources is certainly something Chicago offers, there's no question about that," Counsell said. "The challenge of this is different and that challenge excites me. More resources means different types of players, for sure. That's a different challenge for a manager. No question, it's a part of the equation.

"There are also other things that excite you. This place, you can't help but get excited about it. The brand the Chicago Cubs are, you can't help but get excited about representing that. I think it's more than to say it's just payroll."

It will be interesting to see what players the Cubs go after this off-season. As for spending massive money on Counsell, Hoyer said it was a smart investment.

"I think it's an incredibly difficult job," he said. "Obviously, managers' salaries have gone down in recent years, I think in part because of analytics. But I look at it like the amount a manager has to handle, staffs are bigger, front offices are bigger, so there's more people management than ever before.

"You have to be the face of the franchise twice a day, if not more. I think the people that do that job at a very high level deserve to get paid really well."

Chicago Cubs' Cody Bellinger looks on before a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman throws out Minnesota Twins' Royce Lewis at first base during the seventh inning of Game 2 of an AL wild-card baseball playoff series Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola leaves the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning in Game 6 of the baseball NL Championship Series in Philadelphia Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
FILE - Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani walks in the dugout during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Anaheim, Calif., Sept. 16, 2023. Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell and Aaron Nola were among the 130 players who became free agents Thursday, Nov. 2, as baseball's business season began the day following the Texas Rangers' first World Series title. Max Muncy, Joe Jiménez and Colin Rea gave up a chance to go free and agreed to new contracts with their teams. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)
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